Former First lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings appeared before the Commission investigating past Judgment Debt payments in the country on Monday to explain how her company was awarded a judgment debt of over 4 million dollars.
Caridem Development Ghana which is owned by Nana Konadu’s Non- Governmental Organization, the 31st December Women’s Movement, signed a joint venture with a Chinese International Company for Agriculture and fisheries for Cocoa processing.
Calf cocoa, which is a joint venture between Caridem and the Chinese company, sued the state after the Finance Ministry failed to release an undisbursed amount of 1.8 million dollars under a subsidiary Loan agreement to it for its cocoa processing business.
Explaining the facts of the case to the Chairman of the commission, Justice Yaw Appau, Nana Konadu noted, “Calf Cocoa International was thought out due to the fact that the price of Cocoa kept dropping and our organization through its business department (Caridem) decided to go into the manufacturing of cocoa. We went to a number of countries and the Chinese government bought our idea. In fact, we and two other companies were given concessionary loans to start up the company. So we started the company in the late 1990’s. The shareholding was forty-nine percent for my organization and fifty-one percent for the Chinese company”.
According to her, the Government of China, through the export Import Bank (EXIM Bank) in October 1998, agreed to give the Government of Ghana an interest-subsidized concessionary loan for the purpose of financing industrial projects in the country through joint ventures between Ghanaian and Chinese companies in identified areas of interest.
Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings reiterated what Private Legal Practitioner, Tony Lithur (counsel for Calf Cocoa) had earlier told the Commission that “the company required about $8.7 million to set up a cocoa processing factory and as of 2003 the factory had been established, and needed the $1.8 million due it to buy the cocoa beans for its operations. But the Ministry of Finance was reluctant to release the money and instead suggested at the time to Calf Cocoa International to enter into a sales contract with the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board for the supply of the Cocoa beans which was clearly not part of the agreement.
This subsequently led to a suit against the state for breach of contract. Politics unfortunately, came to play and we could not even begin production in 2003 when we were supposed to. So in 2003, when we were supposed to have started manufacturing cocoa butter, cake and powder, we could not. We also had to let go all the people we had contracted to work for the company. Ultimately, we incurred losses.”
Responding to questions on the state of Calf Cocoa International now, the ex-first lady of the Republic of Ghana said plans are far advanced to revamp the company.
She also dispelled media reports that Calf Cocoa was paid the judgment debt in American US dollars. My Lord, “we were paid in cedis and not dollars. We received 4,991,655 Ghana cedis.
She added, the Chinese pulled out of the project because they could not handle the unnecessary political interference
“The Chinese say they are no more interested in the business and have given us an option to sell their shares (51%). So as it stands now, we are in search of new partners.
If all these political interferences stop, we can create employment for thousands of people. Two thousand eight hundred people stand to gain employment if we start operations . My Lord, it may interest you to know that from 2002 when the issue started to date, the political interferences have not stopped. I don’t know if they really want the project to start or not,” Nana Konadu lamented.